January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 20 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560820-TC-JWC-01; CL 31: 180-182


The Gill, 20 Augt, 1856

Thanks, dear little Goody, for your kind cheerful Letter of this morning, which has done me a real benefit in the way of spirits. Being altogether solitary here (tho' indeed little more so than usual, and that little mostly to my profit), I get a great result out of anything good put into me at starting for the day.— I am very glad to figure you now in the Back room, waggons all hushed; you may do very well there till the visit has become of the length due. The trickling cistern is not bad. There is a similar sound at Scotsbrig; Middlebie Burn running into the Cauldron Linn,1 at all hours and moments: the poor gurgle of sound, going on for thousands of years, mingles well enough with the strange tune one's play2 in that room at any rate!— — I will be very good to the Canaries, provided they survive, and keep remote from my papers and me; they may depend on promotion according to their merits. I hope the laird will not peck a hole in the leddy's crown, however:3 that also is one of the perils that environ living creatures.

I myself continue very well here, and ought surely to be making progress in health: never in my life had I more the kind of chance I am always grumbling to have. Perfect kindness, and nearly perfect solitude about me: the freshest of air, wholesomest of food; riding horse (“carriage-horse” even, after a sort, besides), and every essential convenience of life provided for me, with wonderful success, on the frugallest of terms. If you saw my little room, with the fire blazing in it, at night when I return from long roamings thro' the twilight (6 to 8 miles the allowance), you would pronounce me right well off for the time being,—“nbetter than I ndeserve!”4 I even get some work done; have made a real impression on the papers I brot with me; sometimes almost fancy I may get that ugly bit of the job (“Book I, Part 2, & Pt 3”5) fairly subdued here. Whh will be a nice thing indeed,—done with two Books and a third I borrowed from John's Scotsbrig set.— The feeblest part of my account is sleep; no overplus of that yet, tho' my bed is unexceptionable, and the quietness do; and my ridings and walkings and bathings in salt and fresh are so continual. However that is not below the average either; & every other particular is far above it. The worst is, I have to experiment on all kinds of dinner vegetables, Peas (grey, of the field), Potatoes, Turnips; and condemn every one of them, at the expense ultimately of one declared indigestion, and of several prior undeclared. However, that is now over I think; my last feat was the “declared indigestion” for the Turnips;—and now I have been thro' the list; and will stick to half a slice of toast and the excellent little Pudding I daily have. The weather has grown unpleasantly cold; wind east, and no steady sunshine till today: I had, on Monday, the ugliest bathe ever seen (eastwind a tempest, water shallow, muddy and only half salt); I in consequence omitted yesterday,—and today the time will not suit. These are celebrated as “big tides”; but I privately find their bigness comes out of the Lammas Floods,6 and their water is a sorry “joot” of discoloured brackish fluid,7 whh has been mostly rain a few days ago! My riding, again, is excellt, the wind favourable for it; do my walking. In fact, I (thrice importt I), you perceive, am doing in all respects very well: the insects themselves seem now all dead of East-wind.

You were far wrong when you thot I was in the pet about your not going to Edinr. Far from it, my gleg little woman; I was very well aware you wd have gone ten times as far on any errand of mine; and well aware this was at last no-errand. But Jean's Boy8 is in Glasgow, connected with “Tweed-Warehouse” Managers;—has really sent superior specimens;—and Jean was here ready to do it all, without pen to paper on my part. Which is now in process accordingly: red-plaid dressing-gown, cape to be as near the brown I now have as may be (and lined as you directed) &c &c, all very grand indeed; and will be here in a day or two. Alas, the Tailor,9 sawing a stick, has sawed his thumb in the interim; and begs to be still dispensed, some days, from beginning! Perhaps I shall have to wait for Scotsbrig and Garthwaite10 after all. Nothing pressing for a day or two.

Jean stayed her two days; went off on Monday evg; I driving her to the Station, thro' a grim whirl of Eastwind, with her poor Boy very ill pleased.11 She was much hampered by the Child12 all the time, and made out for herself or me only a stinted result. Your Letter came to her on the sunday morning here, and was very gratifying to the mind.

I perceive you say in that Letter, You wait for Mr C.'s plans. Alas, my Dear, Mr C. has no plans that you do not long since know of; he means to be back in Chelsea at his work abt the end of Septr; wd be well content to pass the whole time on these present terms, here and about here; has no theory of future movements or visits, except that one to the Inverness regions13—which he will avoid if he can! That is the whole truth; and you must shape your schemes accordingly, so far as I have any prophecy that can influence them.— As to the Highland visit, I study never to think of it, for indeed I know not what to think or how. Lady A. writes absolutely nothing; no answer at all either to the Photographs or to Neubergs Letter whh I forwarded: “All uncertain for some time” was my word there. No promise was ever given in London, nor was the thing spoken of above twice and very vaguely,—but the sublime vehicle (of the glowing axle) and the visit seemed always to hang together in her Ladyship's thot, and I had always to say, “Doubtful, doubtful!” So it stands at this moment.

Tell me, after considering, Have you any friendly house in the Inverness quarter you would like at all to visit? That wd be a decided inducement to get me under way.—(—“Post coming by!” says Mary, cautiously gliding in: I must be brief)— One other thing alone I had to mention on this score: When harvest comes in farm houses, good visitors ought notrather not” to be there. Harvest will be here (apparently) within a fortnight; at Scotsbrig not quite so soon.— — Blessings evermore on my poor little Bairn!

T. Carlyle

Read poor Butler, and lament for him!14—“£14” all right.15